Hired! From Army Reservist to Veterans HR
Banker turned Army officer lands job in Department of Veterans Affairs.
By Sean Gallagher
Jim Deimer faced a real challenge at the end of his active duty. A former human-resources professional in the financial sector, the Army reservist was coming up on the end of a long activation in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as a personnel officer.
“For my occupational specialty, it meant sitting in a concrete bunker,” he said. “I was an infantry officer, but I was in charge of personnel detachments that processed soldiers in theater. If you went into Afghanistan, you would pass through my unit.”
“I was in banking for the past eight years, and you know, that mobilization and being away from my industry group didn’t cripple me,” Deimer said. “But it put me at a disadvantage, because employers were looking at my active service and saying, ‘Wow, so every five years you’re going to be called up and asked to serve 18 months on active duty?’ ”
So, as he prepared to come off active duty, Deimer turned to Ladders to help him network. “I think I was doing everything I was supposed to be doing,” he said.
”I found The Ladders to be a good resource – not just for the $100K jobs. It gets your name in front of people.”
Deimer also turned to his military network and looked up an old colleague from the reserves. “This individual, the last time I had made contact with him it was well over 10 years ago,” Deimer says. “We served together in a National Guard unit. He was in human resources like myself, and we had shared resumes and just stayed in contact over the years.”
Deimer’s contact worked as the chief of a human-resources section in the Department of Veterans Affairs. “And he said, ‘You know, I’m sure you’ve seen a variety of government opportunities, and I can tell you that if you’re interested in this type of work, your skills would be very applicable.’ ” So Deimer began the process of applying for a position with the VA.
Applying for a federal position, however, wasn’t a shoo-in. Even with a contact in the VA, he still had to go through the same process as anyone else. “The Office of Personnel management mandates that all applicants go through USAJobs.gov, create a user profile and create an online resume.” Almost all federal employment opportunities are posted on the site – over 53,000 jobs, ranging from positions that pay $30,000 a year to senior- level executive service positions that pay in the $150,000-per-year range.
“You have to upload your service record and your discharge documents, and there’s a federal application for employment in which you will fully disclose a variety of personnel related questions, and you’ll have to upload transcripts,” Deimer said. “It’s not hard, you just have to put the time into it.
“I compare it to applying to a law school or applying to college. I remember the same sort of tasks – preparing and requesting transcripts, and personal statements and all that. It was intense but well worth it.”
Once Deimer got past the application process, he went through a performance-based interview “that was scored by three other people I didn’t know,” he said. “It was one of those things where you had to show your worth on paper and through an interview, and it worked out, and I’m fortunate.”
Deimer’s job search lasted only a month after leaving active duty. “Really, it was phenomenal – I tell my wife every day how lucky I am, in the job climate that exists. I know friends in the private sector who are still out of work – it’s been two years and counting.”
Sean Gallagher is a former naval officer and freelance journalist. He has spent much of the last 19 years covering defense and technology and is the former editor-in-chief of Defense Systems magazine. Gallagher lives and works in Baltimore, Md.